Ironically, in some ways the tech industry can be hilariously uncreative. Take edge computing for example; the idea of bringing computation and data storage physically closer to devices for better latency sounds like an unimaginably obvious concept, but the idea has been looked at as one of the greatest innovations since EasyCheese. Even the name, “Edge”, is a literal reference to the infrastructure’s placing of computing software nearer to data.
Comedy aside however, the clever IT architecture is revolutionary in a myriad of ways. Latency issues have always plagued the ability of computing infrastructure- even if computation speeds and cloud computing systems are fast, bad latency can render overall efficiency poor. Edge computing deals with this problem through reducing the space between computer and device, granting better connectivity and therefore taking cloud capabilities closer to the edge. Beyond the goal of simply eliminating the possibility of lag times, edge computing has three very real benefits; real-time responsiveness, privacy capabilities and of course, good ol’ reliability.
On a practical aspect, automated systems and A.I. generate mammoth amounts of data as they take in their surroundings and react. Naturally, a flood of data results in increased transmission time, as devices take time to completely receive every nook and cranny of information. In a scenario such as a self-driving car per say, latency speed alone can be a deciding factor in responsiveness- real-time reactivity is an effective preventive measure to disastrous consequences. In terms of privacy, the directness of edge computing translates to a removal of needing to store raw data on cloud servers- a security measure that is greatly appreciated in a time of increasing data theft. This complete package is one that allows the speedy transfer of data, peace of mind from security concerns and the capability to continue functioning even when disconnected from cloud servers.
Swiss Army Knife Of A Facility
Enter edge data centers; relatively new- as a concept, but are in fact not a novel addition to the industry, having existed termless for quite a while. Similar in function to edge computing, these facilities, often smaller in size, are located at the edge of a network, closer in range to devices and end-users. Although often less powerful than core data centers, their proximity allows for better latency, and hence find use in more time-sensitive environments.
Typically favoured by telecom companies for their latency abilities with end users- an absolute essential in communication, edge data centers have also become integral to a number of other sectors. In the healthcare industry, certain medical equipment- especially those remotely powered or by A.I, require as minimal latency as possible, and edge facilities provide the network consistency needed. IoT devices; hardware that are programmed for certain applications and transmit data are also active subscribers, specifically in scenarios where time is of the essence and the back-and-forth between core facilities would take too long. Even in manufacturing where predictive maintenance is present, edge facilities assist in efficiency during inventory management.
Fors And Againsts
Not dissimilar to edge computing, edge data centers also provide a greater level of security, due to the reduced amount of sensitive data transmitted and the ability to fence-off individual portions of network that may have been compromised. Operation is also more economical; the design of moving edge facilities closer to end users naturally translates to a diminished need for high-cost circuits and hubs, meaning lower overall costs. With the pros of agility however, come the cons of keeping weight light. Even though edge facilities are able to handle multiple services, they still do typically connect back to a larger, core data center. This is traditionally for more centralised data processing, and backup storage if need be.
We Love ‘Em
Although edge data data centers have increasingly found favour among operators, their dependance on traditional facilities translates to a position of support, rather than to supplant. Their popularity corresponds with the rise of A.I., telemedicine and live streaming services; all of which require low-latency and privacy considerations. According to a MarketsandMarkets report, the edge data center market is forecasted to grow from 7.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2021 to 19.1 billion U.S. dollars by 2026, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 21.4 per cent.
Think of edge data centers as the speedy infantry unit amongst the ranks of the connectivity army; they capture the attention of end-users through consistent delivery and flexibility, whilst core data centers handle the denser, bulkier loads of data that come through. Both however, are critical pillars to robust IT infrastructure.